Kariņš: Swedish NATO ratification by Turkey 'a question of weeks, not months'

On 18 December 2023, Latvia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Krišjānis Kariņš, visited Sweden, using the occasion to bang the drum for Sweden's accession to NATO as quickly as possible.

Kariņš – who has already expressed an interest in becoming the next NATO Secretary General – met with his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billström, for a discussion on bilateral ties between Latvia and Sweden and regional cooperation, including the matters of expanding cooperation, in particular in business and the defense sector.

"The two Ministers expressed long-term support to Ukraine, as well as for the further enlargement process of the EU and NATO. The officials also exchanged views on the importance of, and ways for even closer cooperation between the Baltic States and the Nordic countries," said a release from the Latvian MFA.

You can see the joint press conference of the two ministers below - though none of the journalists attending asked Kariņš about his aspiration to hold the top NATO job.

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Of Sweden’s membership bid for NATO, which has been stalled first by Turkey and latterly by Hungary, Kariņš said:

“An early accession by Sweden to NATO will make the Baltic Sea more secure. Closer cooperation and concerted support to Ukraine by like-minded countries is the response to Russia’s imperialism.”

He also joked that Latvia had been ready to support Sweden's application for NATO membership even before it had been made, but in a less lighthearted vein noted that the ratification process of Sweden's NATO membership "unfortunately seems to have very little to do with Sweden. These appear to be processes outside of the direct influence of the Swedish government."

"The Hungarians repeatedly say that they will not be the last to ratify. Okay, but they are still one of the two that have not ratified, so we're waiting for the Hungarian ratification procedure and of course importantly we're also waiting for the ratification process by Türkiye," Kariņš said, using the Turkish pronunciation convention and saying he had been assured Turkish ratification was "imminent" and would be "a question of weeks, not months" by Turkey's Foreign Minister.

On Russia's brutal invasion, Kariņš said Russia has been trying to "obliterate [Ukraine] as a country and we in Europe have a united response which is complete and unwavering support. What's extremely important is that in this war Ukraine wins and Russia loses," Kariņš said.

While on his visit, Krišjānis Kariņš, symbolically handed over the coordination of cooperation in the format of the Baltic States and the Nordic countries (Nordic-Baltic Eight, NB8) to Billström. 

“Close cooperation between the Baltic and Nordic countries is highly important for the security and resilience of the region,” Kariņš said. In 2024, Sweden will be at the helm of cooperation among the NB8 Ministries of Foreign Affairs, while Latvia will handle parliamentary cooperation.

As part of his visit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the Chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for the Baltic countries at the Riksdag, Hans Wallmark, and visited the Stockholm School of Economics, where he took part in a discussion on Nordic-Baltic response to geopolitical challenges in the region.

Krišjānis Kariņš at “Monday Movement” rally in Norrmalm Square, Stockholm
Krišjānis Kariņš at “Monday Movement” rally in Norrmalm Square, Stockholm

At the beginning of his working visit, Kariņš together with Billström participated in a “Monday Movement” rally in Norrmalm Square, where they reaffirmed support to Ukraine, underlining that Latvia and Sweden, in close cooperation with regional partners and allies, were supporting Ukraine, its reconstruction and integration into the European Union.

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